Pop Quiz #477: Why the shirt fits badly

Continuing from the first entry as to why the blouse fit poorly, the key problem was an improperly made yoke, most noticeable in the front although the back was no prize either. Alternatively, you could call the raised yoke a design decision but if so, then the pattern must be cut for the fullest part of the bust below that seam -which it was not but I’ll show you how to do it . In any event, the lesson here is yokes and the benefit of them is that through piecing, you can remove the appearance of the side bust dart which is why they can be a great option for fuller busted ladies. The matter of making yokes properly matters even more if the pattern was designed for a large busted woman as this one was. Below is the front yoke digitized which will confirm what many said.

Here are some of the sort of responses I was looking for to my question of how it was that the yoke was made improperly.

  • Vicky: I think the yoke’s intention was to take out some of the bust dart. It is placed too high above bust point to do that.
  • dosfashionistas: First and virtually causing the rest of it would be the yoke. The front yoke needs to be dropped drastically… When the front yoke is dropped, it will need to be refitted because it will then ride over the bust point…
  • Helen: The yoke doesn’t cross at the bust point; the yoke isn’t shaped to incorporate the nonexistent bust dart.
  • oliviacw: the front and back yokes are cut so that their lower edge is parallel to the floor – when the pieces are lying flat.

If you’re not sure what the problem is, below is a short primer on how to make a yoke out of a two dart bodice pattern. On the left is the full piece front with two darts. To the right is the piece cut apart. The yoke is the top portion (right pane). The dart is removed. You should note that the horizontal yoke line at center front hangs farther down than the yoke end point over at the side seam.

One point of significance. The pattern used above for illustration purposes is for an “average” sized bust. If the top is for a larger busted woman, the darts can be much deeper. In other words, for someone with a larger bust, the dart is deeper and the difference in yoke depth at the side seam vs the center front will be much greater than what is seen above. I bring this up because the two yoke patterns used for comparison (below), were both cut for a fuller bust line. In other words, that horizontal line would be straighter for smaller bust lines and show more disparity the larger the bust is. The yoke on the left is the pattern of contention. The one on the right is the yoke I took from my shirt pattern.

Note the difference in the horizontal yoke line that travels across the bust area of the front. You should notice by now that the yoke line of the pattern on the left is the exact opposite of what you want in a well fitting yoked shirt; the line should curve down, not up. Particularly for the large busted women this pattern was designed to fit.

In sum, the first fitting problem of the dark blue shirt is how the yoke is made, namely it is too short. Still, that’s not the whole problem because if you have a princess seam (as the style in question does), the yoke doesn’t need to ride so close to the apex (I thought mine was a little too low). You can have the yoke ride above the fullest part of the bust (the apex) provided the pattern is cut to permit it. In other words, this can be a design decision but if you’re going to do that, the princess seam should accommodate the fullest part of the bust by growing wider below the yoke line. So, let’s take a look at that next, shall we? Below are the lower front center and lower front side joined as how they would lie if joined in position to the yoke.

As you should be able to see above, there is no fullness below the yoke juncture. It turns out, the fullest part of the bust line is at the yoke seam. Ouch. If your yoke seam represents the fullest portion of the bust, then it does need to ride over the fullest part of the bust. Unfortunately, the busts of all the women wearing the blouse made from this pattern, all have the fullest parts of their busts a good two inches or so below the yoke seam line. As this pattern is made specifically for large busted women, it serves no purpose to say it’s due to these women’s fuller bust lines. This also explains the drag lines seen from the side seam, reaching up for the bust front. The twins are saying, “give me more room!”

If you want the yoke to end above the fullest part of the bust, you have to correct the pattern. Below I’ve shown the pattern correction. On the left is the original pattern which shows the fullest part of the bust line resting at the yoke seam line. Off to the right is a pattern with fullness added to the cup area on the lower center and lower side fronts. Do note there is some overlap between the two pieces. The overlap means this area is larger than the yoke seam above it.

Back Yoke
Do I need to show the correction for this? It’s pretty much the same thing except for one small matter, that being the drag lines gravitating into the back armhole. The reason there’s drag lines into the bottom of the back armhole is that first -yes first- the back shoulder line is too high. All of the women who made this top had this problem so it wasn’t a matter of “sloping shoulders” being unique to this model’s body. Anyway, once the shoulder line is corrected, that is not to say the armhole would not need correcting because of course it does.

Tomorrow I’ll go into grading errors I saw in the pattern. That’s a real doozy!

Pop Quiz #477 (pt.1)
Pop Quiz 477: Plus size grading (pt.3)

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  1. ioanna says:

    clap clap clap (applause) :)
    I love these patternmaking tutorials. They are so clear it’s like a light bulb goes off every time I read one :) They’re perfect!
    (Now I’m holding up one of those number signs like they do in figure skating, hee hee)

  2. Liron says:

    Thank you so much for this tutorial. The part about accommodating the pattern if you do want the seam line to be higher is so clever. Do you know from just measuring the person how much to overlap and how far down to add below the bust?

    When are you writing a pattern making book?
    I hope you do.

  3. dosfashionistas says:

    As a side comment; I was taught that even a high yoke that is not being used to fit the bust requires a half inch rise between the center and the armhole to appear straight to the eye. This is because it is curving around the body. A totally straight yoke will appear to drop at the side. I find this to be true in my experience for women’s clothing, I have never checked it out on a man’s pattern.


  4. J C Sprowls says:

    The same visual principle applies to men’s shirts, too. The back yoke does curve up, slightly, at the sceye seam to give the illusion of a straight line when on the body.

    But, much like Kathleen’s example for the bust (which is just a really, really exaggerated shoulder blade if you think about it), there’s a dart concealed in that seam.

    Take care of the function, first, then style the form. We all have numbers we like to start with when drafting the first pattern. But, it changes during fitting.

  5. Karen C says:

    Oh, yeah, I didn’t have time to comment, but I correctly diagnosed the problem. Does this mean I can market my patterns and call myself an expert? LOL

  6. Leslie says:

    Speaking from a large-busted-women’s viewpoint, if the yoke seam ran right across the bust point I wouldn’t wear it. It would be like wearing a sign that said “look at me”. I personally liked the length of the yoke; too bad it was poorly drafted and mass marketed.

    For the large-of-bust, the yoke seam would be more flattering either above, or, under the bust (as in an empire waistline). I am glad Kathleen noted the overlap/addition for the fuller cup.

    This post is extremely interesting and helpful to me. Thanks a bunch Kathleen!

  7. Louise says:

    The reason there’s drag lines into the bottom of the back armhole is that first -yes first- the back shoulder line is too high.

    This solves a problem with my current shirt pattern that was puzzling me! Thank you so much!

  8. Andrea says:

    Hi Kathleen. Thanks for your website.

    About this problem above – I am currently trying to make a pattern for a size 14 from a shift dress that has a front yoke. The dress is sleeveless and a size 8 (australian size which is pretty small). Its a gorgeous dress and the yoke sits above the bust line which is what makes it so nice. I’m wondering if your idea that the yoke should be lower than the bustline is true for all or if you think that an above the bust line is ok too and can you give any tips or tutorials on that.

    Some time ago i tried on another dress with an above the bust line yoke but it had a lot of gathering in the front dress piece and i didn’t think it worked so well. The one i’ve got now has no gathering in the dress. My bust is a B size so i don’t think i need to do anything special for it.

  9. Kathleen says:

    I think something was lost in translation. A below the bust yoke defeats the purpose. Click back through part one, maybe that will clear up the confusion. I will look at this again tomorrow to see if I can figure out where the ambiguity was introduced….

  10. Andrea says:

    Looking at your third diagram where it says “my pattern” which i’ve assumed is the one we should aspire to, the bust line is going through the yoke so that it looks like the bottom of the yoke will go under that bust line. In my dress, the bottom of the yoke goes above the bust line.

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